My partner and I started watching Luke Cage this week and, like all Netflix/Marvel collaboration, I am really enjoying it. It is well written, the effects are well done, and the acting is phenomenal. But, there is something about it that is lurking in the back of my mind. I am a white person and the show is clearly focused on black culture, specifically in Harlem, and that makes me a little uncomfortable.
I’m not uncomfortable with exploring other cultures, but there is a history in the US of white people getting rich off of black culture or reducing it to stereotypes. I wonder if that is happening here. I don’t think it is, but that feeling in the back of my head exists because I will never know what it is really like to be black. I can continue to read W.E.B. duBois, Malcolm X, bell hooks, Octavia Butler, and Booker T. Washington to try and understand, but I will always be outside the window peering in.
Actually, no, not even that. I’m sitting in a house three blocks away with a telescope looking in and trying to understand. I will get a clearer picture with time and better equipment, but I’ll never truly understand that culture that I’m observing. I think that is okay, though, I’ll never understand what it is like to be a white male from Appalachia, a women (despite reading Hillbilly Elegy and The Feminine Mystique). I’ll never fully understand, but I can take the time to learn about other cultures in order to become a better, more loving and accepting person, which naturally makes me view popular renditions of other cultures more skeptically. Is what I’m watching accurate or is it exploitative?
With Luke Cage, I don’t know. The banter in the barber shop, the books being discussed, the language exchanged between strangers and friends, and decorations around the venues are all quite foreign to me, but I don’t know if that is a sign of accuracy or just stereotyping. Is that Harlem, or just what I expect Harlem to be?
The optimist in me sees the nearly all black cast (I don’t think a white person has shown up yet, even in the background, but there have been some Hispanic cast members) and relatively high number of black writers and producers and hopes for the best.
I’m no expert, these are just my random thoughts and concerns while watching it.